A Writer’s Dilemma

This weekend I faced a dilemma. My dilemma was perhaps common to all writers: Should I write or do X? In my case I could work on my current WIP which at 8,000 words, and because I don’t write sequentially, is in serious need or being put into some kind of order. It was that or clean the house and do laundry. As it was, I could, if I wanted to, write my next chapter in the dust on the coffee table. To my mind, if I cleaned the house, it would remain dust-free for about a week, but if I wrote, the words I wrote would, hopefully, still be read decades from now. It was, after all, an easy decision: I wrote.

Going to work every day is an easier decision. My day job pays the bills and gives me the freedom to write what I want without worrying about achieving commercial success. So, I don’t often debate whether or not I should go to work or stay home and write, for nothing frightens, and motivates me more than the idea of being poor.

Perhaps as importantly, going to work every day exposes me to people and their stories and gets me out of the house—and my own head, which is a dark and tumultuous place.

We had dinner with friends Saturday night. The next morning they wrote to ask of anything was wrong because I’d been unusually quiet.

This writer’s dilemma: how do I tell them I was distracted by the characters in my new book who were whispering in my ear, and coupling in the corner of my eye. I generally try to be present in the moment but often I have a foot in each of two worlds and sometimes the world of my fiction is the more irresistible. Perhaps because I was so lonely as a kid, I learned to create worlds full of friends and playmates. Whereas in childhood it was more a place to retreat to when the real world became unbearable, now it’s a place I dwell in half the time, like a summer house.  Stanley is used to my half presence and when I start to drift away he knows where I am going. The other night I was kneeling at the dining table frantically writing. He came up behind me, and tickled me; I snapped at him. Later I apologized and explained that I had written a scene in my head while we were walking the dogs and was trying to get it down on paper before I forgot it. “Yeah, he said shrugging, “I figured.” He figured. And that’s what I love about him: he is one of the few people who gets me, who can live with my divided attention.

And that’s why I am grateful for him, why my characters are grateful to him, and perhaps my readers will also one day be grateful, because he gives me the room to write.

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  1. Several thoughts come to mind. First, I believe it was Quentin Crisp who once pointed out that after four years the dust doesn't get any worse. Second, you were kneeling at your dining table? How low is your dining table? Often, when starting to watch a movie, I imagine how the opening scene would be written. I write it in my head until I become too involved with the story. Not surprisingly, I'm not allowed to use the remote to pause each scene.

    1. Yes, that was Quentin Crisp! I've always remembered taht quote. I had a boyfriend once whose mother had asthma; dust was a major trigger so she never dusted. I swear there was an inch of dust on every surface in her house!

      I was kneeling because I was afraid pulling out a chair would distract me from the words circling in my head. Also I have very long legs.

      As for writing movie scenes in your gohead I do that too. But then I drift of thinking, Gosh thsi coudl have bene written so much better an dtehn I lose interst. You probbaly fast forward through commercial, too, don't you? I'd take away te remote to. (I've been know to remove the remote's batteries secretly to keep the husband from compluslivley changing channels or fast forwarding through commercials.)

    2. We time-shift everything; we never watch anything live. That way we can FF through all commercials. I'm not allowed the remote because the husband is more of a control freak than I am, plus I would randomly pause and jump back to see a scene over again for additional detail or to hear a line again. He never wants to do that.


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